Although to many British divers this may sound an absurd suggestion, but from the Finnish company’s point of view it may make total sense. I should start by saying this post is purely speculation and my opinion.
Suunto are without doubt the UKs leading supplier by volume of diving computers by some margin, currently they account for 70 percent of our computer sales. However this massively dominant market position is not the same all over the world. In other territories the other big dive computer manufacturers of Scubapro/Uwatec and Oceanic often trade podium positions amongst each other.
My logic is not driven by their competition rather them as a company. Both Oceanic and Scubapro/Uwatec are first and foremost scuba manufacturers. This is not true of Suunto, they produce sports watches for athletes, adventurers and sports people. Their heritage is in navigation, their founder invented the liquid filled compass. A dive computer is a very technical piece of equipment, a few recalls over the years reinforces the implication of a malfunctioning dive computer. It is potentially a life threatening scenario. I do not know but I am guessing that dive is not the majority of their business. They produce watches to monitor fitness, altitude, gps positions, even golf swings! None of these have the potential for injury like a dive computer. You could argue a GPS position incorrectly reported could send a mountaineer off a cliff, but the technology for reporting position is pretty well tried and tested. Most new car have GPS, there are many companies producing systems using this technology.
Now consider how many companies then the amount of units they produce manufacture dive computers. If one of their watches falsely reports your golf swing as good, or your running speed a few miles per hour off, who really cares? Who could tell? The market for fitness, walking, golf and the like are huge compared to scuba. So why would such a successful company continue to produce hugely technical pieces of kit for such a small market? Maybe the CEO is a scuba diver and the decision is emotional rather than financial. I don’t believe that, Suunto are owned by a huge corporation called Amer. They have many well know brands under their corporate umbrella, I doubt there is any emotion in the decision making procedure.
So we have a hugely successful corporation producing life support instruments for a small market (comparatively). You may be thinking they charge more for dive instruments, but having sold their hiking and sports products as well, I can report that there is not much difference in the prices. Therefore I am a little confused why they continue in the dive market? I am glad they do, I love their products. Are they the best dive computers, that’s personal opinion. Would they be my choice of dive computer at present, nope… But I appreciate why they are the UK number one. For Scubapro/Uwatec and Oceanic it makes sense to offer dive computers, they manufacture dive equipment and if they don’t someone will. Over the years Suunto have tried to branch out from instruments, they once produced BCDs and dive lights but these were short lived and I guess not profitable, although as I recall quite good. A few years back at a scuba conference
I saw a slide showing market penetration for each of the computer manufacturers over the world. Suunto were not dominant world wide as they are in the UK. So the question remains, why would a non dive company open themselves up to a medical style liability that dive computers offer without a huge financial payback? Huge financial paybacks demand either high prices or huge sales volumes, neither of which seems to fit our industry. What do you think? If you have purchased a Suunto dive computer recently did you even consider any alternatives? If you live and dive overseas who are the big dive computer manufacturers in your locale? Please leave your comments here on the blog for others to read and reply to.